In my last post, I identified that the first volunteer project of Wandering Wahba is to “get some hockey equipment together and take it to the Himalayas to play pond hockey with the locals”. I thought it would be useful if I took you through how I arrived at this opportunity.
Selecting a Volunteer Travel Opportunity
With a quick search, you can find a number of volunteer travel resources including Volunteer Forever, Global Help Swap, and Volunteer South America. These sites are great to put you in the right direction. Once you have found an organization that looks interesting, here are a couple things I suggest doing and how I applied them in selecting SECMOL.
Talk to Previous or Current Volunteers
In this case, finding a previous volunteer was very easy. A good friend of mind introduced me to SECMOL a few years back after he volunteered there. I was able to pick his brain about everything to do with the placement. We’ve discussed the organization, a normal day of volunteering, accommodations, and everything else I wanted to know.
I was very fortunate to know someone who had spent time in Ladakh. However, it is fairly easy to find volunteers. The first thing you can do is ask the organization directly for names. Usually, volunteers are eager to share their experiences with you and answer your questions. This is the case whether the experience was good or bad.
The next thing you can do is search for volunteers online. Try a number of different queries in Google and see what you come up with. I was searching for more information about Ladakh and found this video:
I learned that the ILSC Education Group did exactly what I am doing. I did a little Sherlock Holmes work and tracked both Erin and Jason down. They were both very helpful and happy to share information about their project. Don’t be afraid to send an email.
Search the Travel Blog World
The travel blog community is full of nomads eager to share their experiences. Travel bloggers are individuals who are on the road for extended periods of time and they are always looking for interesting things to do. A number of them have volunteered. Spend a bit of time searching travel bloggers. Simply go to their sites, search for “volunteer”, and see what comes up. I have found a number of interesting opportunities this way. Again, if you are interested in what they are doing, ask them about it. Travel bloggers are extremely active in social media and are easy to track down. They are usually very happy to help out and direct traffic to the organization that they spent time with.
Identify how you can Help the Organization
I have decided to go to Leh, in Ladakh, India and volunteer with SECMOL. This organization runs activities primarily for Ladakhi youth. Their work includes a campus for students going to school or college in Leh, solar energy projects and an ice hockey program.
I love playing outdoor hockey and SECMOL is always looking for volunteers who can teach hockey and/or skating skills. I have worked with Right to Play which uses sport and play for development and have coached numerous sports teams. Going to SECMOL and teaching hockey is a natural fit for me.
Grassroots organizations are usually ran by people that are being run off their feet with work and still have a million things to do. The less administration burden you put on them the better. It is ideal if you identify how you can help an organization and make suggestions as to where your skill set can meet a need of theirs.
Remember you are only going for a certain amount of time. The project you start should be finished by the time you leave as it is difficult to find people that will continue on with your work. It is always better for both you and organization if you can identify/suggest this project.
I hope that these suggestions make sense. If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments below. Also, let me know if this is useful or you have any suggestions for a future post.